Saturday, 20 August 2011

Freedom For Granted

There's a lot being said and done in India these days by a man called Anna Hazare. Millions of Indians are following him. They've found their messiah, it seems; one who will root out this evil called 'corruption' and restore India to her former glory. The entire nation is in a frenzy; a euphoria. "Enough," say a million voices. "End corruption now!" Pity, if only it were so easy.  

I have, or at one point had, tremendous respect for Anna Hazare; they way he transformed his native village Ralegan Siddhi into a near-perfect utopia, his honesty and sense of honour and most importantly, his belief in the Gandhian way of non-violence. Today, as he and his compatriots (and not to mention, thousands of sycophants) hog every news channel and news paper, I feel deceived. Not that my respect for Anna Hazare has diminished; it's actually a matter of principle: I have a thing against people who've got the Messiah Complex. And as is evident, Anna Hazare has a tremendous one. 

I realize now, as I am writing, I have not said a single word about the Jan Lokpal Bill--the reason why Annaji is a national phenomenon. Clearly, the man has overshadowed the cause. And that is what bothers me. 

Also, I do not consider Anna a second Gandhi. Just the same way I cannot call some racist neo-fanatic Hitler. To do so would be to show utter disregard to history. And I do not, and will never, don the insignia stating: 'I am Anna Hazare'. I am far too big a narcissist to assume someone else's identity. Besides, I already mentioned my dislike for people with the Messiah Complex earlier, no?

To get to the point, I do not endorse the Jan Lokpal Bill which has been drafted by the members of the so-called Civil Society (what are other Indians then, uncivil? or savage?). Neither am I in full support of the government's version. Both have some serious glitches. Though the latter, if drafted with direction and political will (note the 'if') would be more workable than the so-called Civil Society's. Most importantly because it would have the sanction of the Constitution and the Parliament behind it (the very powers that citizens vested in it). Sadly though, it is not to be this way. And mobs wearing Gandhi caps on Azad Maidan and elsewhere are also indicative of something gone terribly wrong. 
I will not criticise the Jan Lokpal Bill here; it is flawed, yes. And you know very well what the flaws are (unless of course, you're one of those Gandhi cap wearing anti-graft crusader ramblers sorts). What really bothers me, is that these mobs, and the pseudo-intellectual support that they're getting have dubbed this as protest as a 'revolution', even to the extent of calling it a 'second freedom struggle'. This, I feel, is misplaced idealism and the most explicit instance of optimistic stupidity gone awry. 

There are very few of us who have seen the Freedom Struggle for what it truly was; and Hazare is one of them. They rest of us just know stuff from textbooks and movies; including me. True, civil disobedience, non-cooperation, and Swadeshi formed the cornerstone and indeed the beacon-light for guiding the Freedom Struggle. But this was undertaken with a vision; the vision of a free and independent India. And today we are free and sovereign, albeit victims to a host of vices. And on this plane, a protest is justified. But who are we protesting against?

The people who you and I have elected to represent us? People who are defiling the most sacred and purest tenets upon which our nation is based? People who misuse and abuse their powers for their own selfish gains?
Or, people who resort to unjust means because they chose to serve us? The ones who abuse their power to bridge severe chasms of inequality? 

Truth is, corruption is not something which plagues only the superpowerful elite. It has penetrated every level of our social infrastructure because all who hold responsibilty have ignored the rights of all others who are entitled to rights. We have failed to address the basic causes of this 'evil' of corruption. Injustice and apathy. Corruption is not an evil; it was born of our own incompetence to hold up our morals. To obey the most basic and essential rules. And to cover up for this, we devised a way to work around the system. 
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And this is not because corruption is inherent in power relations. This is because corruption is the fall child of power gone berserk.
By not stopping at a traffic light, by spitting on the road, by not paying taxes on all these little mistakes, we have created a monster that now plagues all higher forms of power. And now that it hurts us most, we ask for power over these very institutions which we, so to say, corrupted. 

I agree, the reason I am giving is simple and straightforward; and that it may vehemently countered. But only if we were so vocal when corruption was at a nascent stage, if only some Messiah like Anna (or he himself) would have seen this and protested then...who knows?

We do not know what struggle really is; what it is like to have a foreign authority dominate us; to be reduced to a mere colony, existing to serve and only serve.
We also do not know what oppression really is. Yes, emminent persons like Dr Binayak Sen, and hundreds of nameless others, have been incarcerated because they opposed the injustice metted out to fellow countrymen; so also Hazare's brief jail stint. Persons like Irom Sharmila who have furthered the cause of fighting injustice have been persecuted brutally. And that is a huge and disgusting blot on the democratic fabric of this nation.
But this is a country which also is allowing people to gather in masse and protest against the government. It hasn't bruatally cracked down upon its own citizenry and bloodied its streets with innocent blood. A nation that is striving to reform a deplorable state of affairs in the face of adversity. A nation where every change in government has been peaceful (but in some places, was marred with violence. Yet democracy prevailed).
A nation where its own citizens have taken their freedom for granted.

I am, and have always been, a skeptic of democracy...and in all likelihood, would remain one. For a democracy is only as good as its people. And truth be told, we aren't exactly a good people. Yet, this democratic setup is the best hope we have at proper self governance (a term I am skeptical of, again). 
Then again, any system which tells me what I am to be and what I am to do is, in my eyes, a truly opressive one. And I'd much prefer a democracy to that, thank you very much. Or maybe, anarchy; like V would say.
If I were to choose between a messiah-led ochlocracy or being in league with an outlaw vigilante, I would choose the latter. Because a mob is made up of idiots; especially one which is led by a guy with a Messiah Complex, guided by a noble cause. 
And noble causes, we know, pave they pathway to hell. 

So long, and Freedom Forever!

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